Sunday, March 12, 2017

Mnemonic for the character for mouse

I recently made this mistake while trying to remember how to write the character for "mouse":



Taking a closer look at it, I thought of a way that I could remember how to write it (my problem being the bottom half) correctly in the future. The four dots in the lower half represent the feet of the mouse, and the long "foot-less" (dot-less) stroke represents the tail. Since Chinese characters are written left-to-right, top-to-bottom, and when drawing a mouse, out of habit I would normally draw the head first, on the left, followed eventually by the tail on the right (that may be a consequence of my being right-handed and not being a very good artist).

The correct character (far more professionally rendered than mine!) is:



During my investigations, I also discovered this was a component of other characters, such as in these "mouse-related" words (詞):

臭鼬鼠 (chòuyòushǔ; skunk)
鼴鼠 (yǎnshǔ; mole)

The excellent Pleco dictionary app (I really should write an updated review for that, it's great) has a host of others for different rodents and more, but it's impossible for me to judge how frequently any given one is used by native speakers. I myself have been using 臭鼬鼠 verbally for years, and saw 鼴鼠 in a children's book, and am confident that native speakers truly use those two in everyday practice (as opposed to, say, only in zoology-specific contexts).

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